"Okay, that's all for today – have a good holiday, everyone," Neville said, addressing the group in front of him. He had just finished teaching them a refined method of locking doors that would resisted being reopened by another's magic.
The DA were subdued as they all started saying goodbye to each other – it was the last day before the Christmas holiday's, and they knew full well that it was unlikely that the entire group would return. Neville watched as they hugged and clasped shoulders under the banners bearing the Ravenclaw eagle, the Hufflepuff badger and Gryffindor Lion.
The group was considerably smaller now, and far less exuberant without its original leaders. He, Ginny and Luna had re-started the group as it had become clear just how far the school had fallen.
He was a little surprised by how far his own skills had advanced – born of reading late into the night out of his determination to fight in the war. He no longer had Harry, Ron or Dean to talk to in the dormitory, and so his best friends had become Ginny and Luna.
It took nearly fifteen minutes for the group to disperse. They left in pairs or threes, and each time the Room of Requirement would open its doors to a different point within the school. Eventually, after several 'Happy Christmas's' and even a few hugs, Neville was left alone.
"Expecto Patronum!" he said firmly, looking down at his wand. Nothing happened except a faint, feeble gush of silvery gas. He sighed, he had always had trouble with the Patronus Charm.
He closed his eyes and tried to summon up a happy memory. He thought of the time his mother had smiled, her eyes showing a brief, temporary flash of recognition as she tried to say his name – he had felt that she had been proud of him.
Hannah Abbot was standing in the middle of the room, her hair blonde and wavy as it fell around her startling blue eyes.
"Oh, hi Hannah," Neville said, lowering his wand. "Something wrong?"
She laughed nervously. "What isn't wrong?"
Neville smiled at her ruefully, and she continued.
"I just want you to know that I think … what you're doing here – all this, with the DA – I think it's really brave, Neville."
He blinked at her. "Really?"
"Yeah," she said, blushing and avoiding his eyes. Then a look of determination crossed her round face. She stepped suddenly closer to him and kissed him on the cheek. "Merry Christmas, Neville," she murmured.
He was shocked, but still managed to stutter out, "Merry Christmas, Hannah."
She smiled and headed out of the door, giving him a quick glance over her shoulder as she left.
Bemusedly, Neville touched the spot on his cheek her lips had touched. "Expecto Patronum," he whispered.
A huge silver-white shape burst from the end of his wand and landed lightly on the floor beneath the Gryffindor banner. The lion shook out its great silvery mane and roared a challenge to the stars, before fading away into insubstantial white mist.